Movie Review for Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (2008)


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Review #696 of 365
Movie Review of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (2008) [PG-13] 90 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $12.00
Where Viewed: United Artists Colorado Mills Stadium 16 & Giant Screen, Lakewood, CO
When Seen: 30 September 2008 @ 7:00 pm
DVD Release Date: Unscheduled (please check back)

Soundtrack: Download now from Mark Mothersbaugh - Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) [Deluxe Edition] - or - order the CD below

Directed by: Peter Sollett (Raising Victor Vargas )
Screenplay by: Lorene Scafaria (debut) based on the novel by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Michael Cera (Juno) • Kat Dennings (The House Bunny) • Aaron Yoo (The Wackness) • Rafi Gavron (Breaking and Entering) • Ari Graynor (For Your Consideration) • Alexis Dziena (Fool's Gold) • Jonathan B. Wright (debut) • Zachary Booth ("Damages") • Jay Baruchel (Tropic Thunder)


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Anticipated for months by the iTunes™-savvy fans of the film's music, not to mention the novel 2007 novel Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, the film version directed by Peter Sollett from a screenplay by Lorene Scafaria and staring the young talents of Michael Cera and Kat Dennings, the film's release in October sets it up to be one of the favored young adult comedies of the month. Unfortunately, the film may turn out to be a bit of a disappointment to both sets of built-in fans. First, off, as I write this, I sit here thinking if I can even remember the music. Actually, I cannot. I know there was music in the film, but the film itself is about kids that love music and you sort of get caught up in them, in their relationships, that I didn't really pay any attention to the music. But, that also probably means, sadly, that it wasn't outstanding ie. it didn't stand out? Second, the book was written in alternating chapters from the perspective of Norah and then Nick by the two authors. There is virtually no attempt to even slightly achieve that sense in the film—which would not have been impossible and has been done before. If they changed nothing else between the plot of the book and the plot of the movie they changed one very huge thing that changes everything. In the book, it is Nick that asks Norah to be his girlfriend for 5 minutes, in the movie it is just the opposite. Why the change? It's really hard to guess or second guess, but it changes everything. Doesn't it? Norah is in the driver's seat for the entire movie, and maybe that's the way the screenwriter and director wanted it. Rather than, therefore, the film being about two broken-hearted teens who accidentally fall in love with each other through their mutual love of music, it's really about one-broken hearted teen who is sort of stalked and eventually given the opportunity to fall down at her feed if he's smart enough to read the signs. Well, maybe that's too harsh. The point is that this film is not an equal partnership in the same sense that the book depicts. So, if you loved the book for that reason, you might wish to skip the film. There are a couple of other reasons for dissent as to the greatness of the film that will be addressed a bit later.

So, the film's version of the story, which has already been mentioned gets off on a different foot than the book, has 'emo' not 'mo' Nick (Michael Cera), desperately exasperated by having been dumped by girlfriend Tris (Alexis Dziena) on his "b-day" turning down a gig with his gay-boy bandmates of Thom (Aaron Yoo) and Dev (Rafi Gavron) until they mention the possibility of seeking out his favorite band of all time "Where's Fluffy" afterwards. But, he plans to drive himself in his yellow Yugo that everyone thinks is a cab. Meanwhile, Norah (Kat Dennings) and her best friend Caroline (Ari Graynor) have plans to go out that evening as well while trying to avoid their mutual acquaintance, Tris. Tris tosses Nick's latest 'break-up' mix into the trash, only for it be rescued from the jaws of death by Norah who loves, loves, loves his mixes. The fates would have the all in love with "Where's Fluffy" and all showing up to see Nick's Band play. One thing that Tris was during their relationship was supportive of his music. Norah begs Caroline not to get drunk—mind you, these are all high school not college kids—because she's sick of always haven to pick up after her. When Tris shows up at the performance, what's Norah to do about the fact that she's got no boyfriend? So, she zips over to Nick and asks him to be her boyfriend for five minutes so she'll have someone to show off. She doesn't realize that he's Tris's Nick—which is a little incongruous coming from a girl that's listened to every one of his mix CDs. Anyway, they kiss and then Nick sees Tris with her new college boyfriend. He's still not over her, and maybe she's not over him either. The rest of the film's story takes place that evening as Nick and Norah meander through each other's lives until the fateful moment planned out for them in advance where they would either end up as potential soul mates or mortal enemies. (see spoiler for results on that one)

Thematically, the film has a lot of cool things going for it. There hasn't been a recent, good, mainstream teen-oriented film with acceptable, interesting, teen gay characters. The film has some outrageously funny parts. Nick and Norah, despite their world and their friends, seem well-adjusted teens who are totally into music rather than totally into drinking and drugging, which is refreshing, although the plot device used to cause most of the chaos in their lives that evening hinges on the drunken stupor of Caroline—no she doesn't take Norah's advice. The use of this plot device is one of the weaker elements of the film and forces, perhaps, undesired analysis of certain elements of the plot.


… Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist isn't great. It's quite good, but it suffered from some distracting ancillary story lines, stereotypical characterizations, and a tendency at times to stoop to the lowest common denominator …
Basically, the central characters and central premise is strong enough as to not to have needed to be dragged down by the ancillary characters. Why is Tris, for example, so wicked in her scheming once it's clear that Nick has moved on? Worse, why does her idiot new college boyfriend, Gary (Zachary Booth) put up with it? Is she really that good-looking as to be able to force men to do whatever she wants? And, are all teenage males either gay or willing to do whatever she wants? Regardless, the ancillary character plot lines serve as nothing more than distractions from what could have been a far more engaging romance. In fact, if you see the film, think about what it would be like if you edited all the other stuff out? It would have been far shorter, but wouldn't it have been a movie almost as cool as The Notebook when it comes to real romance and two people finding each other and falling in love?

When it comes to the acting, the young cast is quite good. Most of the characters aren't that deep, and several fall into definitive stereotypes. Of course Micheal Cera and Kat Dennings steal the show, as well they should. The concern for Michael Cera has to be, however, that he's now successfully played nearly precisely the same character in three straight movies. Is he already typecast? The director paced the film well, but might have worked a bit harder with the editor in making some decisions as to what was truly relevant to the central story.Finally, when it comes to great movies, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist isn't great. It's quite good, but it suffered from some distracting ancillary story lines, stereotypical characterizations, and a tendency at times to stoop to the lowest common denominator in teen-pitched films—someone, anyone, preferably a drunken person, has to end up vomiting all over the place. This vomit theme couldn't be more trite or tired, and yet this film pushes it a few steps further just to make sure no one could ever say they didn't really interact with the vomit. Sure, everyone has vomit, but we interact with it in this film. If there needed to be any more evidence of non sequitur material that distracted from the story this would be it. Oh, and if anyone who sees it can figure out what's the deal with the gum symbolism, please post your ideas and comments on that below, because I've tried and tried to solve it and am at a complete loss.


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Related Products from Amazon.com
Other Projects Featuring Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (2008)
Cast Members
Michael CeraKat DenningsAaron Yoo
Rafi GavronAri GraynorAlexis Dziena
Jonathan B. WrightZachary BoothJay Baruchel
Director
Peter Sollett
Writer
Lorene Scafaria

Review-lite Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (2008) [max of 150 words]
When it comes to great movies, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist isn't. It's quite good, but it suffered from some distracting ancillary story lines, stereotypical characterizations, and a tendency at times to stoop to the lowest common denominator in teen-pitched films—someone, anyone, preferably a drunken person, has to end up vomiting all over the place. It's unfortunate because the movie is outrageously hilarious in spots and has to great characters in Nick (Michale Cera) and Norah (Kat Dennings). It's also too bad they couldn't have made the film follow the "he said/she said" flow of the book while also changing which character it is that makes the first proposal.

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1 comment:

movie fan said...

there were some awkward moments in this movie that were hard to get past... such as every time that gum was passed around (yuck!)